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Gambian woman takes over as ICC chief prosecutor

THE HAGUE -- Gambian lawyer Fatou Bensouda was sworn in Friday as the International Criminal Court's new chief prosecutor, pledging she was ready to lead the fight against the world's worst war criminals.

The 51-year-old Bensouda is the first woman and the first African to head the team of prosecutors at the tribunal, which is currently investigating 15 cases in seven countries, all of them African.

Taking the oath before ICC judges and a public gallery packed with foreign diplomats and dignitaries, Bensouda vowed to continue to pursue those wanted for crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“We should not be guided by the words and propaganda of a few influential individuals whose sole aim is to evade justice but, rather, we should focus on, and listen to the millions of victims who continue to suffer from massive crimes,” she said at a ceremony in The Hague.

“The one thing you can rest assured of is that I will be the prosecutor for all 121 State Parties, acting in full independence and impartiality,” said Bensouda, who served as predecessor Luis Moreno-Ocampo's number two since 2004.

Bensouda, once Gambia's justice minister, was elected last year by the 121 state parties which have signed up to the Rome Statute — the International Criminal Court's founding document.

The world's first permanent court to try those accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity began work in 2003, but has only secured one conviction.

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